I attended the Connected & Autonomous Vehicles conference in May 2017, co-located with the Internet of Things (IoT) World conference. Among innovations seen at the show, seven key trends stood out as connected and autonomous vehicles continue to develop and shape the future of the automotive industry.
Connectivity and autonomy are not the same thing
Many outsiders to connected and autonomous vehicles may assume that connected and autonomous cars are the same thing – or at least that the technologies are evolving at the same pace. Neither is true. Connected vehicles, powered by technologies like LTE and 5G, are already on the road and can exist independently of autonomous vehicles. Many connected vehicle features – like data sharing – will facilitate autonomous driving by increasing the amount of information available to drivers without requiring autonomous technology. Autonomous technology must rely on high levels of network connectivity to function at full potential and is still in comparably early stages of development. The technology also faces other barriers like consumer acceptance and liability.
Connected vehicles are already here and have spurred innovation among non-traditional players
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) presented their Universal IoT Platform at the conference – showcasing their goal to serve as a data hub for a wide range of connected devices. For automotive applications, HPE envisions their Universal IoT Platform serving practical purposes like warning drivers about road traffic hazards and connecting to drivers’ homes. HPE’s connected car technology works independently of autonomous technology but may be integrated with it in the future.
HPE's modified BMW i3 incorporates IoT technology.
Source: Eric Totaro
Liability and risk impede the adoption of autonomous vehicles
Just in the United States, the independence of federal, state and local laws inhibits the adoption of autonomous vehicles and raises challenges from a regulatory standpoint. Gail Gottehrer, a partner at the law firm Akerman, said that as vehicles become more autonomous, human passengers become more like cargo. This shift will cause vehicle insurance to become more like commercial product liability insurance rather than insurance protecting against human error.
Other issues discussed by Gottehrer included the need for data protection, as juries tend to weigh data-based evidence more heavily than human anecdotes. This data dependency can become risky if the data is edited after an incident. Gottehrer also noted that the tendency to legislate retroactively rather than proactively in the US is a boon to the autonomous vehicle industry, which can test the limits of technology without regulatory interference.
Security is an overarching theme for all IoT devices
Conference speakers repeatedly emphasized the need for IoT security. IoT products’ convenience and ability to enhance quality of life is matched by a risk of hacking. Recent attacks like WannaCry ransomware demonstrate the need for connected products to incorporate security features, as ill-intentioned individuals and groups are constantly looking for ways to manipulate connected products for their own benefit. In the automotive space, UL – formerly Underwriters Laboratories – aims to bring automakers together to establish a universal UL-certification for security.
Virtual/augmented reality has the power to reinvent the car buying experience
Ryan Hoopingarner, executive director of product marketing at HTC, says that automakers have been wary of pushing virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) technologies into their showrooms due to the rapid advancement of the technology and high installation cost. In early 2015, Audi announced plans for the Audi Virtual Experience – a showrooming technology that incorporates a VR headset with high end Bang & Olufsen speakers to simulate driving. However, the technology has not taken off, with few Audi showrooms employing either VR or AR. Hoopingarner says that the lack of VR/AR adoption in the automotive selling space is not due to consumer opposition but rather due to automakers’ fear of having the VR/AR technology they install becoming quickly outdated. As the VR/AR market matures and costs come down, expect to see more of the technology springing up in dealer showrooms.
Future-proofing connected products is a challenge, especially for durable goods with long lifespans
According to Don Reeves, chief technology officer at Silver Spring Networks, making today’s industrial products – airplanes, machines in plants, etc. – connected is a challenge, especially due to their long lifespans and high costs. Even for products currently in production, the rapid evolution of connectivity leaves many manufacturers guessing if they are installing the proper technology to enable connectivity in the long term. This challenge provides opportunities for aftermarket retrofitting of in-service products for both hardware and software.
The digital consumer and enterprise world cannot operate independently
As digital consumer trends evolve, the enterprise backbone behind them must evolve as well. This means that large scale data storage and management systems must become increasingly connected with the digital consumer products they power. According to Sam George, director of Azure IoT at Microsoft, setting up IoT products tends to be manual; this setup process needs to become more automated – with the help of enterprise technology – for IoT products to truly take off.